From smashing tiles to driving sheds: the weird world of wacky record breakers

For some, setting a world record is an all-consuming passion and the weirder the better. Meet the people putting the record books into a spin

I realised I needed to make gravity work for me, not against me

Getti Kehayova, 42, Las Vegas, USA. Record: the largest hula hoop spun (female) is 5.188m in diameter, and the spin was achieved by Getti Kehayova in Las Vegas, Nevada on 2 November 2018

I grew up in the circus. Im from Bulgaria and all my family were performers. We went all over the world together. It was the absolute best experience a child could ever have. So many different kinds of people, so much access to different cultures, and I could learn on the road and not at school. There were loads of kids around, too. Lots of the performers had children so wed all hang out together. I had friends from Mongolia, Russia and France. It was a family, really.

My parents did a teeterboard act, and it was the most amazing thing. Then my older sister started doing a hula-hoop act. She was my hero. I wanted to be just like her. So I started learning how to do it. I really fell in love with it.

I retired from being a touring circus performer five years ago. I moved to Las Vegas and now work as a technician at Cirque du Soleil. It was the right time to get off the road. I put my kids in regular school and bought a house. Then I brought my mum over from Bulgaria to live with us. But it was hard to adjust, knowing there wasnt going to be another town tomorrow. I always thought I had one more performance left in me.

Both my dad and my older sister had broken Guinness World Records, so I thought I might try to see if I could break one. I decided to try spinning the worlds largest hula hoop, which I had to have specially made. It was hard though. So hard. It took me ages to work out how to spin it, and I had to bulk up I needed more muscle. The hoop is as big as a house, so the problem is getting it off the ground and then spinning.

One day I realised that I needed to be spinning in order to get it off the ground. I needed to make gravity work for me, not against me. It took me ages to work that out and I really had to get used to being dizzy.

It was a proud moment when I broke the record, and even if someone comes along and breaks it, I dont think Ill mind because theyll really deserve it. Both my dad and my older sister have sadly passed away, so I like to think my world record is my little tribute to them.

They know us down at the hospital now. Its a strange life

Having
Having a smashing time: Chris and Lisa Pitman hold the record for breaking roof tiles. Photograph: Alex Rumford/Guinness World Records

Chris, 49, and Lisa Pitman, 45, Kent. Records: the most pine boards broken in one minute with one hand (female) is 230, achieved by Lisa Pitman in Bromley on 9 April 2018. The fastest time to break 1,000 roof tiles (female) is 83.98 seconds by Lisa in Orpington on 26 March 2014. The most roof tiles broken in one minute (female) is 923, achieved by Lisa on Lo Show dei Record in Milan on 11 July 2014. The most pine boards broken in one minute with one hand (male) is 315, by Chris Pitman in Bromley on 9 April 2018. The fastest time to break 1,000 roof tiles by a male is 51.08 seconds, achieved by Chris in Bromley on 19 August 2013

Lisa: I started taekwondo when I was 15, so 30 years ago now. Id watched The Karate Kid and I was a little bit in love with Ralph Macchio, so I went to a karate lesson and didnt like it at all. Then a friend suggested I try taekwondo and I fell in love with it at my first lesson. I knew then and there I wanted to become a European and world champion. Two years ago I went to China and became the first female master of taekwondo in England. I met Chris eight years ago. Its a good pairing. Hes a crazy powerful man and Im a crazy powerful woman. I encouraged him to come along for a lesson. The Guinness World Records stuff didnt come until 2013. We were at an exhibition and needed something to entertain the kids, so we set up a little display and they went crazy for it. Chris had literally never done it until that day. Afterwards they all said: You should go for a record!

Chris: Were really very competitive people. Even with each other, which is an interesting dynamic for a married couple. Whatever amount of tiles one of us puts up, the other wants to better it. We have fallen out over it. Even our friends and family often dont understand what its all about. My sister is very, So you broke a brick, wow I think a lot of people just dont understand the skill it takes which is just fine by us.

Lisa: Weve hurt ourselves doing it. The first time we went for a record attempt we didnt have an adjudicator, so we set it all up ourselves. When youre smashing up 1,000 tiles, you dont realise the scale of it. How much room you need, how many tiles you actually need, because they dont all break. So on that attempt we actually ran out of tiles. It was complete carnage. I thought Id broken both my hands. Chris thought hed broken one of his. We ended up in A&E, sobbing, thinking: Our dreams of being a Guinness World Record holder are over! In fact, we hadnt broken our hands. The nurse who gave us our X-rays was astonished and said: I think your hands are made of iron.

Chris: They know us down there now. Its a strange life. I often find myself out for a meal and my mind will start to wander. Ill see a table and Ill start thinking, I wonder if I could break that? Its always on our minds. Its our life, really.

My shed is only getting faster

On
On the road again: Kevin Nicks in the fastest garden shed ever built. Photograph: Paul Michael Hughes/Guinness World Records

Kevin Nicks, 54, South Yorkshire. Record: The fastest garden shed is 129.831kph (80.67mph), achieved by Kevin Nicks in Yorkshire on 16 September 2017

I had a car that I was going to scrap, but it was too good to throw away. My creation is built on an engineered steel framework, designed using 299 pages of rules from the DVLA, which allows it to drive on the roads. To date, the shed has covered 35,000 miles. While I was building it I found out there was already a record of 58mph for the fastest shed, which I thought I could better. Why do you want to drive a shed? Why not! Ive driven from Lands End to John OGroats, and have speed records at locations all over the UK and the Isle of Man.

Ive always been interested in engineering and have a great understanding of anything mechanical. I worked in the renewable energy industry, and Im interested in the alternatives to vehicles. My mind is ticking over; I might build something rather special if I can secure the funding.

If someone wanted to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest shed, it wouldnt be easy. Even if they didnt make one like mine, which is road legal, it would still have to pass the very strict rules that allow it to race. It has to be safe, which means it would need to hold together at speed. And my shed is only getting faster. Ive updated my vehicle. I think I might redo my record at some point.

As a kid, I was so scared of failing

Right
Right on target: Brittany Walsh shooting an arrow using only her feet. Photograph: James Ellerker/Guinness World Records

Brittany Walsh, 32, Portland. Record: The farthest arrow shot using the feet only is 12.31m, achieved by Brittany Walsh at Creston School in Portland, Oregon, on 31 March 2018

It started as a dare. Flicking through an old book of pictures taken in the circus, we saw this woman firing an arrow with her feet. My friend dared me to try it and we went straight to a sporting goods store, bought a bow and arrow, and I realised: Yeah, I could probably do this! What can I say? We didnt have Netflix at the time. You make your own fun.

It didnt come completely out of the blue. I had competed in gymnastics as a kid, but I was very studious, I was very shy, quiet, not spontaneous at all. I felt like I had my life mapped out. Go to medical school. Become a doctor. Then I saw an advertisement for a local physical theatre company looking for tumblers. I went for an audition and they accepted me. I spoke to my parents about it and they were surprisingly supportive. They told me: School will always be there. I learned stilt-walking and trapeze. It really helped me find myself. And I did go back to school afterwards, too, so Ive had the best of both worlds.

There was part of me that always wanted to try new stuff. I was so scared as a kid. Scared of looking stupid in front of people or failing, but the older you get the more you realise that stuff just doesnt matter. What matters is being happy, growing as a person and learning who you are. Ive realised that Im a thrill seeker. I like the excitement of doing new things. Id like to learn how to fly a small plane. Life offers so much stuff to do; why not dive right in?

I see the world in balloons

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A lot of hot air: Ryan Duff with some of the hundreds of balloon creatures he makes every week. Photograph: Bradley Henderson

Ryan Tracey, 38, Belfast. Record: The most modelling balloon sculptures made in one minute is 14, achieved by Ryan Tracey on the set of Blue Peter in Manchester on 7 September 2017

I never thought this would end up being what I did with my life. Now wherever I go I see the world in balloons. Im a father of six were expecting our seventh and I started to entertain my kids. Im passionate about my childrens development, so I was keen to learn new things and involve them. First I learned how to juggle. Then how to unicycle. Then I learned magic. But balloon modelling was the one that hooked me, because I was so terrible at it. I thrive on a challenge. Im one of five kids. I was, until I went bald, a short, ginger-haired boy. Nobody ever noticed me. I was the small dog with the big bone and I think just trying to be recognised made me throw myself at things. It was six years ago when I started doing this, and I broke the world record for the most models in the fastest time two years after that.

I train every day. I spend between 500 and 1,000 on balloons every month. I work with a data analyst. Ill get my kids to adjudicate and film me so I can watch what Im doing afterwards and think how I can change something to do it better and go faster: my posture, or my breathing. But everywhere I go Ill be making balloons. I might be waiting in the chip shop and see an old lady there and Ill make her a rose or something. People probably think Im the weird balloon guy, but I think Im putting something good into the world.

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